04/06/2004 12:00AM

Surface familiarity a factor


SAN MATEO, Calif. - A pair of strong allowance races for 3-year-olds highlights Thursday's card at Bay Meadows.

Eight runners, including the 3-0 Wine Spoken Here, meet in a six-furlong race, while Lava Man tops an interesting field of five in a 1 1/16-mile turf contest.

The sprint is a speed-laden event in which several of the performers will run for the first time at a track other than Golden Gate Fields.

Trainer Bob Hess saddles Fierce Knight, who will be making his Bay Meadows debut but who has run at three different tracks in his six-race career.

Hess is not overly concerned about the horse's first time over a new surface.

"It depends whether you like the track," he said. "Some can handle most any surface. I think a bigger factor in here is how much speed there is in the race."

Trainer William Morey Jr. may have the colt to beat in Itsaprospector, who won his maiden race in his first start of the year after running second in three starts as a 2-year-old.

"A horse training over that track may have a little advantage. The material in that track is quite a bit different," Morey said, explaining why he sent Itsaprospector to Bay Meadows on Monday and had him work over the track Tuesday.

"Most guys stabled at Golden Gate just ship in the day of the race. I thought this would be better for him."

Wine Spoken Here has three straight wins climbing the class ladder and has good speed. Kuhl 'n' Clever has won two straight and showed good speed in an eight-length victory against starter allowance foes last time.

Old Sugar Shoes, who won his debut here last spring, also has good early speed, as does Swen, the most experienced runner in the field, who has raced at seven different tracks.

The speed should set things up for Itsaprospector, who has stalked nicely throughout his career and improved his Beyer Speed Figure in all four starts.

"He's learned from each race," Morey said.

Lava Man, with two wins and a second in three turf tries, seems the one to beat in the co-feature. He will probably sit just behind the hard-knocking Dancin Candy. An Irish import, Kingdom Come, will be making his third U.S. start, while Master Heat comes off a starter allowance victory in his turf debut last time. Epic Power continues his move up the class ladder and is seeking his fourth straight win in his turf debut.